Mali junta warns western partners key peace deal under threat
Thursday March 02 2023
Mali's junta has issued a stern warning to international partners about threats to a major peace deal with armed groups in the country's north, fuelling fears of renewed hostilities.
Colonel Major Ismael Wague, one of the junta's strongmen, recently wrote in strong terms to Algerian Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra, whose country is leading international mediation efforts to uphold the Algiers Agreement signed in 2015.
In the letter obtained by AFP Wednesday, Wague accused one of the deal's signatories, the Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA), an alliance of Tuareg-dominated independence and autonomist groups, of repeatedly violating the agreement.
He also questioned the credibility of international mediators supporting the agreement's implementation, which include the United Nations, African organisations and foreign partners under the leadership of Algeria.
"The behaviour of certain movements is an obstacle to peace," he said.
Wague accused the CMA of their increasing collusion with terrorist groups.
Large swathes of Northern Mali are under the CMA's control, including the strategic town of Kidal.
The situation is a major irritant for the junta, which has made sovereignty its mantra since forcefully seizing power in 2020.
It broke a long-standing Malian alliance with France and other Western partners in the fight against extremism, making the West African country turn to Russia militarily and politically.
"The Malian Government, while remaining committed to the intelligent implementation of the agreement, will automatically reject any accusation that would hold it responsible for the possible consequences of (its) violation," Wague warned in the letter dated February 24.
A spokesperson for the CMA declined to comment.
The letter comes amid heightened tension between the junta and the signatories of the Algiers agreement, led by the CMA.
The Algiers agreement ended years of hostilities with groups that in 2012 mounted a campaign for independence in Northern Mali, a conflict fanned by militias.
The accord provides for more local autonomy and the chance for former rebels to integrate their fighters into a state-run "reconstituted" army that would operate throughout the north.
The deal has often been touted as crucial for resolving tensions in deeply troubled Mali.
But delays in implementing it have fuelled doubts about its future.
Security crisis spreads
The militias, meanwhile, have continued to fight under the banner of Al-Qaeda or the Islamic State organisation, and the security crisis has spread to Central Mali as well as neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.
The CMA in December announced it was suspending its participation in the deal's implementation, accusing authorities of lacking political will.
It also criticised their "inertia" in the face of a push by the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) underway in Northern and North-eastern Mali.
The push has generated battles with local armed groups and Al Qaeda affiliated rivals. It has resulted in hundreds of civilian deaths, massacres and mass displacement.
The CMA mounted a major security operation in February without the help of the state.
An official supporting the junta in February said he expected hostilities to resume soon.
Neighbouring Algeria and other mediators have been working for weeks to break the deadlock.
Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tabbouleh received CMA representatives on February 26, 2023.
"Some movements, precisely those of the CMA, keep violating the agreement," Wague wrote in the letter.
He pointed to command posts established by the CMA; travel permits to gold panning sites that it has issued and an Islamic court in Kidal it allows to operate, all without government approval.
He said these actions and a "lack of response" from the mediators to them, discredited them.